In a divorce situation, the parties don’t always make the best decisions for their children’s living situation. Unfortunately, many parents in a divorce let their feelings about each other get in the way of the best interests of the children.
During divorce proceedings, parents must make decisions about where the children will reside, who will pay support, what the visitation schedule will be, and many other tough decisions. All the while they are dealing with property separation decisions such as assets, debts, possessions, etc. Important child decisions are made while dealing with their relationship with each other.
Many parents forget that the children are involved physically and emotionally in the process. If the parents cannot make good decisions about the children, the court will step in to make the decisions for them. The court will decide the children’s situation based on a standard known as “best interests of the children”.
The judge will use “best interest” factors found in the Ohio Statutes in section 3109.04(F)(1) to make their decisions. The court will listen to the wishes of the parents. However, if you are in a custody trial, it is likely that the parents disagree on important terms, so the court must hear evidence on the other factors.
The judge will interview the children if it is determined that the children are able to give the judge good information. This will include if the child is old enough to understand the situation and communicate their wishes and concerns.
How the children will interact with each parent, siblings and others who may be involved in each parent’s household is considered. The judge will also evaluate how the children are doing in the current situation at home, school and the community. Everyone that will be involved with the children will be evaluated for physical and mental health.
Then the judge must consider which parent is more likely to honor and follow the orders from the court. The judge will need to know if either party has failed to make support payments. The court will need to know if any party has been involved involved in criminal activity involving the family including domestic violence, sexually oriented offenses, etc.
Then the judge will consider if any parent has interfered with the other parent’s rights to visit the children. Whether either party lives or plans to live out of state is an important factor. Making the arguments in an effective way for the judge to rule in your favor requires an experienced family law attorney. Trying to convince a judge that you are a great parent and that the other parent is a terrible person is not what the court wants to hear. Your attorney can present your evidence in such a way that the best interest of the children can be determined.
The best way to avoid letting a judge make the important decision about how your children will live after the divorce is to work with the other party early to make the decisions in your children’s best interests. If the parents can agree on the living arrangements, support and parent visits schedule, the parties can enter a shared parenting agreement. Then the parents decide what is best and avoid putting each other and the children through a trial, risking a result that no one wants. Your attorney can work with the other parent’s attorney to prepare the s for shared parenting.
To approve a shared parenting plan, a judge will need to determine the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly for the children. The parents will need to show that they will encourage the children in sharing of love, affection and contact with the other parent. The court will also consider the geographic proximity of the parents for shared parenting to work. If a guardian ad litem is appointed for the children, their recommendation will be considered.
Whether the court decides, or the parties agree, changing or modifying the final decree is not easy. The court cannot change parental rights and responsibilities unless there is a change of circumstances of the child, the residential parent, or the parties of a shared parenting agreement and a modification is necessary for the best interests of the children. Your attorney will have to meet difficult criteria to even get into court to argue for a change.
The choices and decisions made during divorce will affect you and your children for the rest of your lives. The best time to help the children through the difficult divorce process is early. Make the effort to put aside animosity toward the other parent and work for the best interests of the children. It may be the most important decision you ever make for them.
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